A Chat With: Pip (TinyPixxels)
| John Kemp | Interview
A Chat With is a series where I talk with developers, streamers, journalists, and other people in the gaming community about the practicalities of what they do.
In this installment of A Chat With I talk to Pip, otherwise known as TinyPixxels, about her streams, her health, and how to approach gaming events. I’ve been a semi-regular viewer of Pip’s streams for a while and have experienced the fun and friendly community she and her mod team have created.
Hi Pip. Can you give a quick rundown of what you do for the people that don’t know who you are?
Hi there! My name is Pip, and I’m a partnered Twitch streamer! I stream a variety of both indie and AAA titles, bringing attention to some gems and getting to grips with everyone’s old favourites. I’m lucky enough to have one of the friendliest communities on Twitch—honestly they’re like a family. With their support I not only stream, but write the odd article, conduct the odd interview and get out to find all the best in indie! We live by “I’m bad at games, so why not play all of them?”
When I watch your streams I’m often struck by how friendly your community is. Is this the result of work behind the scenes, a natural outcome of your personality and the type of streams you do, groundwork you laid at the start of your streaming career, or something else?
So I’m always told a community reflects the streamer, but honestly there’s been a fair amount of work over the course of a number of years gone into making the stream a friendly and safe place. Having been frightened off early on by some League and Hearthstone chats (which sadly are notoriously bad) I made sure that early on I had a mod team who were switched on, and shared the same vision as I did—a chat where people could actually chat.
Honestly no one works harder than my mod team. We make sure that people are comfortable, welcome, loved every time someone supports and we try to limit the amount of banter. For some it’s an odd choice, but banter into insults is an unfortunate trend, and between people who’ve never met it’s often a difficult balance to strike. The way we run things doesn’t suit everyone, but to us it means every viewer has a nice place they can come to when they feel down, and hopefully we can help pick them up. To some viewers I might be the only contact they have with other people that day, so we try to make it a more positive experience. So far it’s working—the same amazing people come back day after day to support and spread a little happiness. I don’t know what I did to deserve such an amazing community, but I’m always grateful!
You’ve mentioned on occasion that you have EDS. Our readers might not be familiar with this condition, so can you tell us a little more about it and how you manage it?
EDS or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is actually a group of conditions that range from ‘annoying’ to ‘debilitating’, and honestly I’m one of the luckier ones. It’s a set of conditions that affects connective tissue, so blood vessels, skin, ligaments, tendons and bones. EDS is pretty rare and comes in a variety of forms. I have EDS-Hypermobile Type, so I have joints that without constant exercise are loose and so dislocate easily, as well as stretchy skin, constant joint pain, fatigue and crepitus in my shoulders. Sounds a bit of a list, but it’s all manageable! There’s no real way to cure EDS, so I manage my pain with painkillers and heat therapy and keep all my limbs attached by making sure to exercise frequently. I think it always shocks people how active I am, but without it my body would deteriorate. I can’t imagine being in a position where I couldn’t even manage a wheelchair at events, I can’t imagine not being able to deliver content and be with my community, and among other things, that pushes me hard.
How does this impact your streaming? Is there pressure for you to treat streaming as a higher priority than your comfort and health in order to keep your viewers engaged?
With Twitch becoming a really saturated platform, there’s an unfortunate necessity to stream more hours and push your content further if you want to get seen. It’s not something that I feel is spoken about enough, as it’s honestly dangerous. On the run up to partnership I was trying to put out content at all hours and it’s so easy to burn out. With a condition that carries not only pain but fatigue too I quickly crashed and ended up in and out of medical care. I’ve since learned that actually, I am human, and my viewers understand that. We take measures now like regular days off and ‘wiggle breaks’ mid stream where I can get up and move around if I need to (this also reminds viewers to move around if they haven’t already too!). I’m also pretty open about my condition. There are days where I genuinely struggle to put one foot in front of the other the pain is so bad—on those days I just tell people, and they understand. I’m really REALLY lucky in that regard. So I guess where there used to be a pressure, I’m happier looking after my health and putting out the best content I can, even if it means slower growth. Content creation is not a race, neither is it a competition, it’s a chance for us to show our passion. Can’t do that burnt out!
In terms of your exercise regime, anyone who follows you on Twitter or Instagram knows that you’ve been enjoying Pole Fitness recently. Did this “click” for you more than other types of exercise you’ve done in the past? Is it something you would recommend others look into as something they can do at home?
Pole Fitness is a really odd one. It’s a combination of the strength and coordination I had to learn for Karate, and the grace and flexibility I had to learn for dance, all rolled into one. It’s really magical, working so hard on getting a pose and suddenly (BAM!) you’re upside-down looking graceful and strong all at once. I think the draw is that just working all my muscles isn’t the be all and end all. It’s grace, style and generally being badass, which is a wonderful feeling when you nail it! I wouldn’t recommend people start learning at home honestly, as the best times I have are in a class with other people! I was incredibly nervous heading to my first session, but the ladies and gents I train with are wonderful, and are always pushing me forwards to do better and celebrate when I get things right! It’s not a sport for everyone, but if you fancy it, see if there are any classes near you! If a dork like me can do it, you sure can too!
In addition to your exercise regime you have a horse to take care of and a partner that you live with. Was it difficult to work a regular streaming schedule around these parts of your life or was it straightforward once you had the stream times “reserved”?
Oh no, the dreaded ‘S’ word! I’m awful at keeping a schedule because of my condition and my horse. I bought her as a project horse, and unfortunately she’s taken a hell of a lot of work! Having to be on the yard twice a day and make time to see my poor partner always cuts into time, but I think I’ve found a nice time slot I like to be able to stream in. The problem with keeping a schedule is that I never know when I go to bed how much pain I’ll be in when I wake up. It’s always a difficult thing, but I try my best to keep to the same time slot as that promotes growth. I’m lucky that my community understand I’m useless at times and will forever be running late, and my partner understands that no matter what, he will only just be second to games!
Changing topic a little, gaming events and conventions are an important networking opportunity but it can be easy to go in without a plan or get nervous about self-promotion. Do you have any advice for streamers who want to talk to devs, or vice versa, but don’t know how to approach it?
So this actually is my favourite part of my job—getting to speak to developers and publishers about their games! There’s nothing quite like sharing your passion with people in the industry—everyone there loves video games, so make it clear you do too. It’s super easy to be tempted to turn up to an event without doing any research, but if you can take a look at the games that will be there, either through the convention’s site or by using the right hashtags on Twitter and do a little digging to see what looks like it interests you, you’ll be ahead of the game when you come to speak to devs! This shouldn’t be all you check out at the event, but will help keep you focused in a busy environment.
Starting a conversation with devs is as easy as asking about the game itself (‘This is great, can you tell me a little more about it?') and telling the dev you’re a content creator looking for new games to share! Make sure to swap cards with everyone and be positive, even if you have to fake it till you make it. There is no ‘I’m too small’ for this either. Get talking to devs and publishers whenever you can—if you can build a good, positive reputation, often that means more than simply metrics.
As for devs/publishers, hi there! Press kits are always super useful to us, so please remember to bring some in one form or another! The more information you can give us about your games, the more information we can pass on to our viewers and other streamers. Get to know Twitch as a platform and feel free to ask streamers about it! So many people I speak to don’t quite understand how Twitch can benefit them and this is something we’re always happy to discuss—you’d be surprised at the range of games that do well!
Finally, you have a regular D&D group, The D1E Cast, that you record your play sessions with. Do you have any other activities that people can watch outside of your streams? Do you prefer your non-streaming play time to be more private without so many eyes on you?
I’m pretty active over on social media avenues like Twitter and Instagram, but I’m looking to expand this over the next few weeks with more YouTube content so that people can catch up with my streams and follow me around some of the events I go to, as well a live broadcast podcast that will make it’s way to both YouTube and various podcast distributors. I’m always excited to bring new content to the channel! Hopefully soon I can get back to writing some articles for the lovely folks at Senshudo too! I miss writing so much—I always feel like it’s one of the easier ways to convey my passion for the industry.
As for gaming on my own, I always struggle with it! I tend to play games with some of my closer friends when I do get time to do so, as I’m forever going into ‘streamer mode’ when I game, regardless of whether Twitch chat is there or not! I’m always talking through everything I’m doing, so it’s less odd if I do so with other people around! I wouldn’t say I enjoy it any more than streaming, it’s just different. A change of pace is nice in all things, but I don’t think you can ever beat the experience of playing a game alongside the nicest of audiences almost every day!